You can find hot sauce almost anywhere in today’s culinary landscape. It embellishes dishes of every origin in large restaurant chains and privately owned dining establishments alike and is one of the more popular condiments in most household kitchens across the country. Recently, the hot sauce craze has reached a fever pitch due to the versatility and extensive available selection of this adaptable condiment.
The History of Hot Sauce
The origins of hot sauce span back thousands of years to Central America, where the primary ingredient in hot sauce, chili peppers, grew naturally in the wild. Shortly after their discovery, peppers began to be domesticated and bred for size. Not surprisingly, one of the first applications was found by adding water to form a paste that was used on early tortillas. Conquistadors from Spain found several strains of hot peppers when they landed in Central America and it did not take long after that for the appealing spicy flavor of these peppers to spread internationally.
Commercially bottled and sold cayenne pepper sauce in the United States can be traced to Massachusetts in 1807. By 1868, Edmund McIlhenny set up shop in Avery Island, Louisiana and began formulating the original Tabasco Sauce. Tabasco today is still made using the same basic 19th century recipe, production process, and ingredients. The secret to Tabasco’s lasting success was found through incorporation into the food service industry. Now, as one of the industry leaders in the hot sauce business, Tabasco dominates 18% of the market. However, with so many brands, no one manufacturer owns the majority share.
The rise of hot sauce popularity can be partially attributed to the trends of complementary food products. An increase in the sale of hot wings meant that buffalo hot sauces like Frank’s Red Hot were met with higher demand. Americans eat over 25 billion chicken wings per year so you can imagine the amount of hot sauce that is needed to keep up. The Chipotle obsession ensured that bottles of Cholula Mexican Hot Sauce were flying off the shelves.
Sriracha has its own brand of associated mania. Beef jerky, almonds, potato chips and even yogurt now come in Sriracha flavored varieties. There seems to be no limit to the kinds of food Sriracha can be found on. From food court teriyaki to cocktails at home, there is certainly no end in sight for the application of this Thai chili sauce.
In Other News
A quick look at popular media outlets reflects a vibrant and increasingly popular market segment for hot sauce. Fiery sauces employing hand-selected flavor combinations from across the globe are currently in vogue, particularly in highly populated cultural hubs like New York City.
Meanwhile, unexpected competitors are entering the ring. Traditionally, General Electric is known for its cutting edge engineering pursuits. Soon, they may also be known for their limited edition, wildly successful brand of Hot Sauce. 10^32 Kelvin, named after “…the temperature at which all things start to break down,” is made using the hottest pepper in the world. Though every bottle sold out within hours on Thrillist, you may still be able to get your hands on a bottle by heading to Brooklyn to visit The Heatonist, a hot sauce sommelier shop.
If you don’t want to make the trek, you can still head to the grocery store for a surprising variety or grab a bottle of your local favorite. Studies find that there may be associated health benefits to incorporating spice into your diet. And after you’re done sampling, Mythbusters has proven the best way to relieve your mouth of the spicy flavor. To observe their methods, watch the full episode below: